Miracles of Spring

I seem to be in the business of heavy topics. Between my work as a nurse in a pediatric ICU and my marriage to a pastor, I get what can feel at times like too much of the inside scoop on the lesser known sufferings of many people, much of the time. This week in particular seemed to be the week of choice for a disproportionate amount of unpleasant news. A friend’s suicide. A bad code at work. Extra drama all around.

I also attended the annual Ethics of Caring Conference this week, geared primarily towards nurses, and while I deeply appreciate the courage that this group of people has to tackle the hard issues and reflect on them for a prolonged period of time, my internal response was conflicted. I needed to go there in a lot of ways, to remember that the ethical core of nursing has to do with caring deeply and persistently about situations and issues and people that many choose not to care about. It can be exhausting, but choosing the road of a hardened heart is certainly no better solution, at least not the one that I ultimately want for my life. Many speakers at the conference mentioned how the general public still doesn’t truly, fully grasp what a nurse does in the year 2013. We don’t just hold the patient’s hand, throw on an occasional blood pressure cuff, and deliver a small paper cup of pills, though that is part of our job description. We manage critical situations, enter into complicated conversations, and we clean up secretions, blood and sloughing bowels to try to preserve the dignity our patients. Maybe that’s why the public doesn’t really know what we do. Maybe they don’t always want to. Sometimes, we ourselves need to forget a little of it too.

I’m in the business of heavy topics, and quite honestly I seem to have a strange and morbid draw to them at times. But in weeks like this when I recognize the signs that a healthier sense of balance has been lost, I take a walk outside and remember that even still, this is the first lovely week of Spring, and the celebration of Easter, the resurrected Christ, is just around the corner. I went to water my somewhat neglected herbs only to see that my mint and lavender plants have grown and flourished despite me, and their resilience brings a comforting reassurance. My baby kicks me in my womb, and I marvel at the growth of this peanut who at nine weeks had only limb buds, but now has arms and legs and fingers with which she can jab and kick and punch. I feel the dryness of my soul, but then she kicks me again and I remember that where there once was no life in me, new life has begun and it grows over time, strong and sure. She reminds me that miracles still happen, and my mourning is turned into dancing again.

The Number of our Days

Baby Girl, we are in the middle of week 21 of your life in my womb, and already it seems you are growing way too fast. I’m not sure how we already passed the halfway point of this pregnancy, but it appears you will be here before we know it, while I’m still scratching my head wondering where Christmas went. I saw my favorite yogurt on sale at the market, with the sale’s end date marked as March 12. “Wow,” I thought, “I have a good month to come back to the market to get more of this before the sale ends!” On my way to my car, I realized it was March 12 already. How is it that the passage of time can deceive us so?

I’d like to think that I have a decently realistic perspective on how our lives will be upheaved when you arrive. These days, when I choose to sleep in, I am well aware that this is a limited luxury. When I sit down with a good book on my days off, I tell myself I better read fast because I won’t have much quiet reading time for years to come, unless you count the bedtime stories that will be on repeat as I (attempt to) lull you to sleep. When your daddy and I flew home from one final vacation, I foresaw myself in the shoes of the mom behind me as she tried oh so apologetically to keep her kid from kicking my seat on the plane, again. I did not take it for granted that for now, I still have full containment of all your extremities there in my womb.

This experience makes me realize anew how we make so many of our decisions depending on the assumptions in our minds of how much time or how many other options we have. All that home reorganization that I was procrastinating is now put on the fast track. I’m determined to get most of the nesting done while I have a decent amount of energy and can still actually bend over without a large watermelon in my way. I’m savoring all my quality time with friends before my conversations are interrupted with “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!!” I’m so aware now of moments that feel like wasted time, lost time.

Working as a pediatric ICU nurse also puts a unique perspective on this pregnancy. For better or for worse, my experiences with my patients have forced me to walk this uncomfortable line between what is simply reality, and what is flat out morbid. I know the odds are in my favor, but I do not assume that I will absolutely, necessarily have a healthy child. If she is born healthy, I do not assume that she will live a healthy 85+ years and simply die peacefully in her sleep at some ripe old age. In some ways, this makes me overly paranoid, and of this I am very well aware. In other ways, this perspective makes me thankful for every healthy kick I feel, and every normal ultrasound picture that I see thus far. But I don’t presume upon anything. I appreciate the fragility of it all. I want so much to guard her with my life.

And so, in this season, I echo the prayer of the Psalmist:

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 90:12